Finding themes in literature
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Finding Themes in Literature. A message from the author…. The Reader’s Job. Part of your job as a reader is to understand what the author is trying to say. Writers seldom come out and tell you, “Hey, Reader! THIS is what I want you to GET from my writing.”

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Finding themes in literature

Finding Themes in Literature

A message from the author…


The reader s job
The Reader’s Job

  • Part of your job as a reader is to understand what the author is trying to say.

  • Writers seldom come out and tell you, “Hey, Reader! THIS is what I want you to GET from my writing.”

  • You, as the reader, must make inferences and draw conclusions about what the author is trying to express.


Hey what s the big idea
HEY! What’s the BIG IDEA?!!

  • Of a literary work, that is!

  • Themes are usually about BIG IDEAS. For example:

    • Freedom

    • Trust

    • Friendship

    • Good vs. Evil

    • And much, much more.


So what is theme
So, what is theme?

  • Theme is the message from the author.

  • Themes can be found everywhere:

    • Literature

    • Art

    • Movies

  • The theme of a fable is its moral.

  • The theme of a parable is its teaching.

  • The theme of a piece of literature is its view about life and how people behave.


This is theme
THIS is THEME…

  • Theme is the underlying meaning of the story.

  • It is a universal Truth.

  • It is a significant statement the story is making about society, human nature or the human condition.


Get to the point
Get to the POINT!

  • Theme is NOT the TOPIC.

  • Theme IS the POINT being made about the TOPIC.

  • Theme is a statement about LIFE.

  • A GOOD theme teaches a VALUABLE lesson about life.


Theme and idea
Theme and Idea

  • The theme of a literary work is its underlying central idea or the generalization it communicates about life.


Theme the meaning of life
Theme…the meaning of life?

  • The theme expresses the author’s opinion or raises a question about human nature of the meaning of human experience.


Words of the wise
Words of the Wise

  • At times the author’s theme may not confirm or agree with your own beliefs.

  • Even then, if skillfully written, the work will still have a theme that illuminates some aspects of true human experience.


Finding common ground
Finding…Common Ground

  • The author’s task is to communicate on a common ground with the reader.

  • Although the particulars of your experience may be different from the details of the story, the general underlying truths behind the story may be just the connection that both you and the writer are seeking.


You and theme
You and Theme

  • An understanding of theme is dependent upon one’s previous experience of life and literature.

  • At the same time, theme in literature can enlarge one’s understanding of life.


Be aware
Be aware:

  • The theme never completely explains the story.

  • It is only one of the elements that are needed to gain full understanding of the story.

  • Literary texts can have more than one theme.


Finding the theme
Finding the Theme

  • What is the topic or “BIG IDEA” of the work?

  • What do the characters say or do that relates to the topic?

  • What do these things tell you that are important to learn about life?

  • The topic is…

  • The BIG IDEA is…

  • The characters say…

  • The characters do…

  • The text tells me…

  • It is important to…



Common literary topics not themes
Common LITERARY TOPICS – Not THEMES!

  • Friendship

  • Survival

  • Family

  • Love & Hate

  • Life & Death

  • War & Peace

  • Motherhood & Fatherhood

  • Poverty & Wealth

  • Freedom

  • Patriotism

  • Education

  • Homelessness

  • Prejudice

  • Honesty

  • Land

  • Laws & Justice


Characteristically speaking
Characteristically Speaking

  • Questions to ask yourself when thinking about theme and characters:

    • How does the character change?

    • What made him/her change?

    • What lessons did the character learn?

    • What are the characters’ feelings about what happens in the story?

    • What conflicts do the characters engage in and what happens as a result?


Common literary themes

(Themes repeated in many works)

Common Literary Themes

Freedom

Poverty

Education

Life

Law

Bravery


1 the quest for immortality
1. The quest for immortality

  • “Stranger, stop and cast an eye.

    As you are now, so once was I.

    As I am now, so you shall be,

    Prepare for death and follow me.”

    (Epitaph in a European monastery)


2 the individual s relationship and obligation to society
2. The individual’s relationship and obligation to society.

  • Sometimes called “man vs. society”



4 the individual s relationship and obligation to the natural world
4. The individual’s relationship and obligation to the natural world.

  • Sometimes called “man vs. nature”







10 what tomorrow s world holds for us aka the future
10. What tomorrow’s world holds for us… anti-hero.aKa “The Future”


11 love
11. LOVE: anti-hero.

  • Marriage

  • Romance

  • Platonic or companionate love

  • Altruistic love

  • Love of Country

  • Admiration

  • Possessiveness

  • Intense dependency

  • Logical-sensible love

  • Self-centered love

  • Game-Playing

  • Unrequited love

  • Godly love

  • Familial love

  • Infatuation

  • Physical attraction

  • Jealousy


12 role of institutions
12. Role of Institutions anti-hero.

  • Sometimes called “man vs. the institution”


Themes
Themes? anti-hero.

What is the theme in the Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast?”

What is the theme in the Disney classic, “Pinocchio?”


Themes1
Themes? anti-hero.

What is the theme in Disney’s Monsters, Inc.?

What is the theme in the classic movie, “The Wizard of Oz?”


Theme topic match up
Theme & Topic Match Up anti-hero.

Courage Revenge Jealousy Dreams

  • Be careful how you treat other people; they may treat you the same.

  • Face your fears and you can defeat them.

  • Do not wish for what others possess. Be happy with what you have.

  • Work for what you want in life and you can achieve any goal.

  • _______

  • _______

  • _______

  • _______

Revenge

Courage

Jealousy

Dreams



Creating general thematic statements
Creating general thematic statements anti-hero.

  • Example: Courage

  • Courage allows people to attempt difficult tasks in their lives even when the possibility of failure is very high.

(Thematic idea)

(assertion about the thematic idea)

(qualifying clause: when, because, unless, even, so that, whether, if, etc.)


You write one
You write one! anti-hero.

  • ______________ ________________________

    ________________________________________

(Thematic idea)

(assertion about the thematic idea)

(qualifying clause: when, because, unless, even so that, whether, if, etc.)


Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work
Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work. anti-hero.

  • Think of a novel, play or short story you know well. Think of the thematic ideas that are present in that piece of literature. Choose a thematic idea word (you may use the resource list) and complete the fill-in-the-blank statement. The assertion in this statement will be directly related to the ideas presented in the work of literature.


Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work1
Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work. anti-hero.

  • Example:

  • Work: Cold Sassy Tree

  • Thematic idea: death

  • In Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns presents the idea that death is not only an ending but also a chance for a new beginning when those who are still alive take the opportunity to learn from it.


Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work2
Creating thematic statements specific to a literary work. anti-hero.

  • Work: __________________

  • Thematic idea: _________________

  • Model: In____________, ___________ presents the idea that ___________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________

(Name of literary work)

(Name of author)

(assertion about what the literature teaches the reader about the thematic idea)

(qualifying clause: when, because, unless, even so that, whether, if, etc.)


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